By Brian Camp,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Epic, compelling, and violent anime classic.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Central theme concerns debate between preserving and protecting the environment versus humankind's exploitation of natural resources in order to thrive and prosper.
Positive Role Models
Main character Ashitaka demonstrates courage when he defends his village from an attack by a demon boar god (which leaves him cursed), and perseverance as he searches for a cure. San, a human girl raised by wolves, matches if not exceeds Ashitaka's bravery and strength. Caught on two opposing sides in the conflict between the human and natural world, Ashitaka and San show empathy for each other. Even the antagonistic Lady Eboshi reveals a compassionate side by employing social outcasts such as sex workers and lepers in Iron Town.
Aspects of Japanese culture and mythology drive the storytelling. Features strong female characters who are also quite complex. Even as San comes to care for Ashitaka, she never relinquishes her independence. Lady Eboshi defies gender stereotypes as an ambitious and savvy leader who empowers other marginalized women and disabled people who work in Iron Town.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
The boar god who dies in the opening scene is covered in swirling snakes. When it dies, it decomposes down to its skeleton in seconds. Battle scenes include shots of dismemberment and decapitation. The boar gods die gruesome deaths. Blood is visible when characters are wounded. All of this is presented in the context of a violent era involving warring factions and a life-or-death struggle between human and animal. Boars are later killed with grenades. Characters do battle with swords, grenades, poison darts, rifles, bows and arrows.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Talk of how the women who are employed to make the rifles in Iron Town once worked in brothels.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"Bastard." "Damn." "Piss."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief mention of wine drinking.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Princess Mononoke is a 1997 Hayao Miyazaki-directed anime in which young warrior Ashitaka (voiced by Yōji Matsuda in the original version and Billy Crudup in the English dub), stricken by a deadly curse, must find a way to rescue the forests of the west. This movie is darker and more intense than many of Miyazaki's other classics. Although it's an animated fantasy, it has the scope and grandeur of a live-action historical epic and has many battle scenes and other violent sequences, as well as additional gruesome elements. Characters do battle with rifles, swords, bows and arrows, grenades, and poison darts. There are scenes in which characters are decapitated or lose their limbs in battle. A character compares soup to "super donkey piss." Mention is made of the female rifle makers of Iron Town being former sex workers. While it's probably too much for most younger kids, older tweens will be thrilled and engrossed, and teens are likely to love the mythical story. The cast of memorable characters, including strong female leads, offers nuanced depictions of compassion, courage, empathy, and perseverance.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 34 parent reviews
Report this review
Love this movie! We watch it together often.
Report this review
What's the Story?
PRINCESS MONONOKE begins in 15th century Japan, as Ashitaka (voiced by Yōji Matsuda in the original version and Billy Crudup in the English dub), a young prince from a remote tribe, is cursed by a dying boar god from the forest region of western Japan. His journey to the source of the curse takes him to Iron Town. There, Lady Eboshi (Yūko Tanaka/Minnie Driver) runs an operation that smelts ore taken from the surrounding mountains once dominated by wolves and boars. Ashitaka is drawn to San (Yuriko Ishida/Claire Danes), a girl raised by wolves. Together they work to try to stop Lady Eboshi and the corrupt monk Jigo (Kaoru Kobayashi/Billy Bob Thornton) from waging war on the animals.
Is It Any Good?
This film is a masterwork of animated storytelling from esteemed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. Charting an epic battle of humans versus gods in old Japan, Princess Mononoke is filled with adventure and beauty. It boasts the scope and grandeur of a live-action historical epic yet also has the fantastic elements of animation. These elements, in the form of talking animals and a magical forest spirit, are treated with utmost realism. The animals debate their plight with dead seriousness and attack humans in murderous rage. They're nothing like the talking animals in Disney features.
The English dub features several actors well-known to British and American audiences, mixing accents from Lady Eboshi's British lilt to the monk Jigo's Southern drawl to San's modern American teenage inflections. Other famous English-language cast members include Gillian Anderson as the wolf god Moro, Jada Pinkett-Smith as Toki, and Keith David as boar god Okkoto.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the role of violence in Princess Mononoke and in real life. How does the impact of the violence in this movie compare to that of live-action films?
What audience do you think this movie is most likely to appeal to? Why? Who do you think it's intended for?
How does this movie explore the tension between protection of the environment and humankind's consumption of the planet's natural resources?
How do Ashitaka and San demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why is it also important that they have compassion and empathy? How do these traits help them?
- In theaters: October 29, 1999
- On DVD or streaming: July 20, 2000
- Cast: Akira Nagoya, Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida
- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: images of violence and gore
- Last updated: April 12, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Best Anime Movies
Studio Ghibli Movies
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate